Thursday, May 12, 2016

Types of yoga classes: the good, bad and the ugly

The illustration is self-explanatory.

I have new students, fresh to yoga. And some who have tried different yoga classes. I prefer the rank new comers to yoga because it depresses me to see how even after 2 or 3 years with a teacher or style some students don't have the basics right,  of a yoga code of conduct or even poses like the fish ,matsyasana ( which is a qualifying pose that way) ).
Some of these teachers are teaching celebs and some teachers have super practices.

So even while learning yoga myself I have seen how a pracititioner with a super yoga practice can be a lousy teacher. Then there are timid teachers who share more theory than practice. Some teachers who focus  on standing / floor poses for the entire class because to teach inversions or arm balances is too demanding.  The variations and combinations of teachers and students are exhausting.
It used to irritate me how casually yoga was being treated including by big institutions. Often it has become a way in which ashram heads keep rich people / donors happy by making them yoga teachers!  It gives bored rich women a halo and it gets the ashrams   more bored rich donors seeking salvation. But I have resolved this irritation now  my head. I believe u get the yoga teacher u deserve.
So if u are in a class where sadhana is not paramount that is your choice, your karma.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Why sitting cross-legged can sort u physically, spiritually

Often it is funny how people pretending to be seated still will wriggle their toes or feet. They are extremely disturbed at sitting cross-legged on the ground.  But it's an ancient Indian practice now trying a comeback. It's treated as an exotic pose.the lotus or padmasana. But it should be   natural to us. Sitting on the chair could be unnatural, disconnected na?
The other equally neglected pose but which is celebrated by ancient rishis is siddhasana. For women the version would be siddhayoniasana.
Here is why sitting cross-legged works even if only at the physical level. According to Swami Niranjanananda (in his comment on siddhasana) : Meridians in the feet are stimulated and they are connected with the visceral organs eg the stom

ach, gallbladder, liver, spleen, kidneys, etc and all these poses have important roles in purifying the blood. "

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Urdhva dandasana: why this pose should not be used as entry for headstand

Urdhva dandasana/ upward rod pose. I also like to refer to it as samkonsirasana/ right angle headstand. Entire pressure builds up on neck and shoulders. I was very very surprised when students from other yoga schools said their teachers had tried to coax them to enter the basic headstand in this pose. Clearly none of those beginners got the headstand. Without preparing the neck for the strength to do it is really strange and even dangerous,  and can cause chronic neck pain.
* Most yoga teachers who don't have the patience to teach the akunchanasan / scrunch or heron transition in the basic headstand will push their students to try's an advanced pose and needs more strength
* Since the hips move off the center right towards the back more scope for falling. .so only an experienced yoga practitioner can control that shift
* More awareness required to draw the hips back to center..again only an advanced practitioner can control this
* Also elbows will lift off in a beginner due to lack of control. .

Be smart in the yoga u do and choosing the quality and integrity of a teacher

#Yogaahhh # Yogadaily # toughyoga # sirsasana #urdhvadandasana #inversions

Thursday, May 05, 2016

The eyes are the keys

I I am learning very exciting stuff about the psychosomatic link between the eyes and one's moods. Apparently the eye muscles that surround the eyes called orbicularis oculi impact happiness centers in your brain. ( Refer The Science of Happiness by Stefan Klein ).
That made me curious about trataka. .the fifth stage of yoga.
Here are some powers that according Swami Niranjanananda come from regular practice of the eye exercises.
*  One could get rid of all fears.
* The special powers of yoga called siddhis are achieved through it.
* Develops mental focus.
* Improve memory
* Develops self confidence

Friday, April 29, 2016

Happiness yoga: practice to beat the blues

Reading the biology of happiness by neuroscientist Stefan Klein( The science of happiness). So did this small diagram to explain your brain map of happiness. Am finding interesting tidbits as to you can sort yourself physically. So much of this spoors back to yoga for me and the awe how rishis guessed these connections.
If the right brain is dominant people find it difficult to recover from bad experience, even something simple like a bad image in the papers. Even after the subconscious suppresses the reaction it stays below the surface as a bad feeling.
In yoga  u can sort your L -R brain imbalance and activate the left brain with the surya bheda ( the sun breath). But it needs to be monitored by an expert.
Tomorrow will ecplain how surya bheda may be done

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Yoga tip for the summer

Ok everybody thinks I am just posting yoga stuff that looks exotic or complicated. Actually yoga is a way of life. Here is a summer trick u can use
Yoga tip for summer: varun mudra( also jal mudra/ jal vardhak mudra)
The names mean rain/ water/increase water respectively.
The names say it all about its benefits.
Touch tip of little finger to tip of thumb, for each hand. Hold for 30 mins or more daily.
Increases water, as well works wherever there is deficit of body fluids ..semen/ menses/ dehydration/ thirst/ eye moisture/ saliva/ digestive juices. Go back to your school biology books and search up the entire list of fluids in body then u will appreciate where all this mudra can help.
ALERT: Avoid when there is too much of any fluid. Example? Mucous, excessive menstrual bleeding, water retention. Also ayurvedic kapha personality should avoid it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Tips for Bhumi Pada Mastakasana: Head and foot to to earth pose, advanced variation

Though many yoga schools consider this as the preparatory pose for headstand, I believe this is tougher than a headstand if you decide to stay longer in it. The headstand itself is far lighter than this pose. This is because your body is still close to gravity and therefore its power and drag is more felt.
Here is why this pose is tougher and demands more strength than the headstand:
* It is closer to gravity, so the drag on it is more
* The pressure on the neck is continuous, unlike in the headstand where after the initial pressure the whole body weight shifts to the shoulder.
* The tripod in a basic or even the unsupported headstand is more stable while in this pose, even in its basic variation, it is very unstable, and the entire instability of this pose shifts into neck.

How to avoid injuries in this pose:
* Practice unsupported headstand before trying this.
* Prepare the neck through regular leg raises, with the head lifted up (including in the suptapawanmuktasana) to strengthen the neck.

Do not try if having
* Neck problems
* Vertigo
* Weak balance (strengthen it in standing poses first)
* Migraine
* High blood pressure/heart problems

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Rediscovering Astavakragita

When I read the Astavakra Gita the first time I was completely smitten. But I am re-reading it now and find finer fibres of understanding that's magical. I could write reams or put across its magic in a few words. I am going to attempt the latter: the more popular philosophical texts advice us how to be pure or give directions on how to reach this state. Or they unravel  the trajectory  towards that state. But this tiny text book says,  "You are pure."  That you do not need to struggle. That bit is over. Wow. What a mindblowing idea..there is nothing to do any more!
Chapter 19, verse 8:
"To talk about the three ends of life is needless,to talk about yoga is purposeless, and even talk about wisdom  is irrelevant for me who repose in the Self. "

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No yoga without inversions

Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Yoga: of happy scissors, karmic cats

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We all have our phases. The last one year has been a period of spiritual upheaval for me. It is the sort of crossroads you come to, where the you realize the theory of yoga has to finally pass into experience.

Birth of any sort can be traumatizing. We humans do not like to accept that we are passing through several little deaths and several new births, every few years. None of us are anything close to what we were as kids, yet we hang on to a sense of illusory continuum.

So, to let go of a lot of things that are conditioned into us, is what yoga is all about. There is a lot of embarrassment about seeing this aspect (so intrinsic to yoga), for obvious reasons, and a lot of it stemming from confused religio-spiritual interpretations of it.

But this is a very scientific thing -- if you know of Shroedinger's Cat, then reality is a relative thing. The cat -- in this very scientific paradox of quantum mechanics because of what is defined as a superposition - can be both dead or alive. (What did you guys study in schools, if you don't know this, really?!!!)
(The image is from this link)

So, yes, what is sad could be joyous?! So, it means what is a separation can be a communion? You make some sort of a sense from this madness of appearances. In yogic philosophy, the jiva (the soul as you experience yourself now) is different from the atma (that is the soul that has passed ages). The latter in its separation from the cosmic soul makes tough choices.  The conflict between these two - jiva and atma -- make the drama of your current life. You could die not knowing the subtext of this experience. That too would be a choice of your soul. But if there is a glimmer of awareness, you are lucky.
Then, you realize that everything else that you experience  in this life  is your soul's choice to make the jiva understand this. The purgatory, as it were.  Karma, so blithely explained by many as tit-for-tat is not really that. Au contraire, it is the choice of you own soul to create tough spiritual choices so it can transcend and reach its destination faster. It is an impatient Olympic runner who has no patience for a plodding partner. The destination, the plodder, the super-runner, are all the same. The one who experiences no conflict between these several roles, understands yoga.

Some enlightened soul immediately understand how this paradox can exist. Others, aspiring, have to struggle. The practice of yoga makes lights up this passage of struggle. It clarifies.

So, no I have not attained moksha yet. But I get the idea of the karmic Schroedinger's cat, thanks to yoga.  
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Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sacred geometry. .yantras

Sacred geometry is a complete subject in itself. In yoga it is the esoteric yantras. But across the globe, across cultures,  across human history, geometric figures have always been part of sacred rituals and sacred spaces. Today I was thinking of focusing on one figure and learn about its impact on human psyche: so its the circle.
Here is what master yogi  Harish Johari has if point is condensed energy a circle is its extension.
Simply put a circle defines:
* Phenomenal world
* Infinity
* Space

Johari also says it represents dynamism
Scientists who study the connection between art and the human brain will tell us that at a very subliminal level the geometric shapes do carry
a subtext loaded with meaning. Ergonomists, interior designers, architects, space consultants already exploit this connection.

Monday, September 07, 2015


The gifts u win for sitting calmly
According to Tibetan Buddhist leader Thich Naht Hanh:
* Courage
* Compassion
* Clarity
* Peace

We first get compassion. This gets us courage. Its interesting to note that compassion is linked with courage. This is directly opposite to what we have been taught so far.
Compassion for yourself and others gives you the courage to fight your spiritual battles. And compassion can be cultivated only when we are at peace with ourselves. And when we are at peace mentally we can think clearly.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Svargadvidasana:bird of paradise pose

It's an exotic among exotic poses. So fills u with exhilaration. .even a master like BKS is not above that thrill as mentioned in his Light on Yoga book. This a very tough variation of the basic one. In the latter the top leg is held with this leg lock.  Holding the bottom leg requires tremendous control over balance.
Tip: Master the basic.  Then use a wall to lean while experimenting with this version.  It falls in place, suddenly. Pure serendipity. .

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

More on mayurasana: try this quiz before you learn about its powerful impact

(Pose: Padmamayuraana/lotus peacock)
How do you sequence this pose? Beginning of the yoga sadhana or end? And why?

This is one of the most spiritual poses, simply because of its purificatory nature. In Indian mythology a peacock is the natural enemy of a snake, and therefore  this pose also has that implication -- that it is the natural enemy of the toxic part of who we are  !

Swami Satyananadaji who writes a lot on poses from various angles -- the psychic, spiritual, biological and psycho-somatic -- says it can speed up the throw of toxins and should be part of those who want to clarify things, internally or externally.  Along these lines, it  can help skin clear up, tone the digestion, and tone the entire endocrine gland system.


Here are Swamiji's words: That it should be done towards the end of one's practice because it builds up toxins, imminent to their release. And if you do inversions after the peacock, you may end up with toxin overload in your head!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Peacock pose, understanding the risks

The peacock pose is amongst the classic poses  normally listed in most yoga texts. As you read them, you will find that certain poses are mentioned as common favorites by these ancient hatha yogis. And peacock pose is one of the spiritual poses, and helps you to digest poison physically (and also mentally, I gather).

But certain schools -- especially the therapy based ones -- do not recommend this where certain existing problems persist. Equally, similarly "timid" schools would say that this pose is contraindicated for women and totally avoidable. There is a very good reason for this, if you remember the context in which it is placed. In earlier traditions, and I would say right up to my mom's time, most deliveries of babies were natural births. My mom would say that a woman was physically very busy till the last day of her delivery which facilitated natural childbirth. Plus, most women had several offspring. By the time she reached the third baby, often her hips had widened, and her reproductive system become so flexible inside that she could stand holding the cradle (they used to have the saree tied to a wooden rod, I recall) and feel the baby emerging and could deliver easily and smoothly!
All of this meant of course, that there was a certain natural looseness at the uterine passage. So, peacock, because it applies tremendous pressure, can cause uterine prolapse in such women or if they have incidence of it, worsen the situation.

It is also not recommended for those with a fragile heart. The elbows squeeze into the large liver, one whose functions is to sponge off excess blood that piles up in the cardiac chambers. So, for those with a heart condition, the pressure that piles up at the heart would be beyond permissible levels.

Women who wish to hold the pose and ensure the pelvic floor does not slacken with regular practice of the peacock pose (mayurasana) must hold the root lock firmly when lifting up.
Happy sadhana

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Yoga of fragrance

Acharya Keshav Dev, a yoga master who has authored several books on the more esoteric, less known aspects of yoga, contributes one full chapter to the subject of fragrances in his book A Mystery. He writes of Dhoomra chikitsa (therapy of fumes) and gandha vidya (science of fragrances) as separate branches of yoga. He lists a few flowers in this chapter. Rose, he observes, was used as an aphrodisiac. Lotus was used to heighten meditation. Balsam flowers cured insomnia. The common hyacinth regarded as pest these it was used to control cardiac problems and anxiety. On the aesthetic front, it helped in hair growth, as did hibiscus flower (used also as a natural hair dye and conditioner to keep hair silky and manageable).

Monday, June 08, 2015

Kukkutasana: cockerel pose

I think I teach mainly also so I remain a student. This weekend, I returned to the Kukkutasana after a gap of a year or so. It is a "heavy" pose, so even yoga-mad persons like me resist it simply because it is not as ego-massaging as the other "lighter" poses. But it seems this year on my learning is all about ego-crushing, so today I learnt a lot more about the kukkutasana, and its entry, which is going to make it part of my daily practice.
You enter the pose in garbasana /or garba pindasana -- the embryo pose with legs locked in lotus, and arms through your legs. Then roll over in a rocking motion. The last few rolls should bring you up on the mat, till you lift your hips clear off the mat and hold. Once you go up, your calves and things should lift "grasp" the arms, to lift you even higher.
Just now, the image above was not entered that way.  But will post one soon, with a higher lift, to explain it in detail.
Happy sadhana!

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The chakra problems you did not know about

I have changed the style of this blog, less lecturing, more crisp and more informative. Earlier, my blog would read like a diary, a personal one, which I shared. Now, this is like a review and relook at some of the marvelous things about yoga. The blog is more like a notebook, where I am revising my yoga lessons:)
So, this is a list of the huge problems that most people do not know
(The image is from Johari's site .. which I recommend for articles and links and super images on yoga and yogic body)
, when a chakra is out of kilter. This is by my favorite master on this topic, Harish Johari.

Mooladhara -- Illusion, anger, greed, violent reactions, insecurity.
SWadhistana chakra-- Emotional yo-yos. Restless anxiety
Manipura -- Selfish actions,ego,anger, power.
Anahata chakra -- Purgatory may be experienced, if negative karmas are enacted.
Vishuddha chakra --Throat center --  Negative intellect, or using the intellect unwisely
Ajna Chakra - Third Eye center --
Sahasrara  chakra -- Crown Center -- Negative intellect, negation of the divine.  Also,when the yogi attains bliss, all action may cease so tamas loka (plane of laziness) may occur.

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

10 life-style habits that affect your energy

It is difficult when people come with expectations on the mat, only to improve physical skills and do not take into account lifestyle habits that actually sum you up as a yoga person.

It is not that yoga seeks to change you in a rigid fashion, but the implication is that your lifestyle deeply affects your energy fields and that you could control a lot of such dissipation, through discipline and love for what you do. How you think, even that matters.

I do not want to lecture you. Rather, I quote teachers far greater than I, and who know everything best.
Swami Satyanandaji in one of his books says that lifestyle definitely affects your pranamayakosha (energy body).

Here is a list
1. Physical activity
2. Work
3. Sleep
4. Food intake
5. Sexual relations
7. Imagination
8. Irregularities in lifestyle
9.Dietary indiscretions

This is what drains one's energy. There are five movements of prana /energy. One prana being depleted means blockage in overall energy flow, disease, metabolic dysfunction.

Pranayamas largely help against this depletion and revitalize the body.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Foot problems?

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I bought this little booklet 1001 Home Remedies Natural cures, by Esme Floyd. It is very accessible book, without too verbosity and neatly indexed remedies for every known problem (or so it seemed).
It is a book you may want to pick up, for sure.
Somebody had asked me remedies for fungal toe, and I am sharing some tips from that book (so as to prod you into buying the book).
* Cornmeal foot bath. Soak cornmeal in slightly warm water, Let stand for half hour. Then take a foot bath in it, for an hour. Repeat weekly.
* Rub vick vaporub on feet at night, cover with socks. Repeat daily, till fungus disappear. Ditto for the last tip also.
* Alternately, do a foot rub with this solution: a few drops of peppermint oil added to eucalyptus oil. Again cover feet with socks before sleeping.

Let me know if this worked for you!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Do you know the science behind your hand gestures or yogic mudras?

Which of the following is linked to you yogic hand gestures or mudras

Psychosomatic issues
Brain map, called homunculus man
Emotional part of who you are
Immune gland
Heart chakra
Brain map, Homunculus man

Poll Maker

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Gupta padmasana:hidden lotus

This is a pose  I am reclaiming after a year or so. Earlier, on a good day, I could be in it for a long time. But not enough to make it what it deserves and truly is, a meditation posture. Which means half hour at the least!
And with cleaner and more settled lines at the hips.
It has many physical benefits:
* Hip alignment
* Powers the heart
* Expands lung volume
* Boosts respiratory capacity
* Manages spinal problem, cleans up posture
* Helps control rounded back/dowager's hump
* Improves arm and upper flexibility, plus leg and hip tone.


* Psychic impact?
* Heals the heart center/anahata chakra
* Improves emotional balance

Though the name means hidden lotus, implying the legs in lotus remain hidden beneath the body, I also believe the name could be because of the impact on the hidden nadi, also called gupt nadi -- this one, according to the Bihar School of Yoga,  runs from the knees along the inside of the thighs into the perineum

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Meditation and neutral feelings

I have managed to continue with the meditation class I started a year ago. The attendance is erratic, some people come, some get angry, some get bored. But even if just one person comes I have decided to keep the class going because I realise that the real concept of meditation is not yet promoted in India and as a yoga teacher how could I too fall into that trap of "popular" yoga?

 A lot of "dramatic" meditation is being done by certain yoga schools, almost designed into slapstick comedies.  That works for the boss gurus and attracts the sort of crowd that looks for spiritual entertainment -- which is the latest sort of fun really.

My transcripts are mostly by the Bihar School of yoga, from their innumeraable books.My favorite is of course of Swami Satyananandaji's meditations  --  very healing and soothing, with a sweet and accessible language and structure.

Of course there is no yoga without meditation.

Often, I see people unable to manage their poses despite great physical prowess. I also see people dropping  out of practice altogether. Even sickness and injuries that comes as natural part of life -- it surprises me practitioners allow that and do not see it is because they are resolutely resisting meditation.

Though asanas and pranayama (another aspect of yoga largely neglected all over) do a lot towards sickness control, ultimately, if there is no meditation there is no yoga and not its benefits either, it seems.

 And no, it  is not me saying it. Its the way yoga is defined, because meditation is the higher limb of yoga. It may be you are unfit for it, but to think that meditation is sissy or boring, that is strange. Or to have loud hypnotic sessions where people are lolling about or passed out from psychotropic stuff?

When people who have tried these weird meditation come to my class,they get angry -- because I think the possibility of training the mind is too much for them. They have become so tuned to becoming its puppet.

Here is a quote from Thich Nath Hanh in his little amazing booklet " How to sit" which explains this strange aspect  of meditation which is pure, austere.

"When you sit and breathe with mindful awareness, you become aware of al then emotions that have been  ignored while you were busy doing things. You become aware of not just your sorrows and joys but also your neutral feelings. A neutral feeling is an awareness that is neither pleasant nor painful,such  as an awareness of a part of your body that is not in pain. With awareness, we can transform a neutral feeling into a pleasant feeling.

When you have a toothache, the feeling is very unpleasant. When you don't have a toothache, you usually have a neutral feeling: you are not aware of your toothache. When you are mindful of not having a toothache, then what was a netural feeling becomes a feeling of peace and joy. You are so happy not have a toothache in this moment. By transforming neutral feelings into joyful ones, we nourish our happiness."

That is obviously a tough act. Most people want explosive experiences. And keep on cultivating them. And of course, there are gurus who cater precisely to these sentiments.

So it is natural that meditation is not for everyone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The biology of meditation

A new booklet by the Bihar School of yoga which I brought (by Rishi Nityabodhananda) lists these marvelous benefits of meditation, especially on the third eye center.

If you notice, most religions have the habit of laying the forehead on the ground (before chairs and stools took over). This obviously activates the third eye.

So, this book Ajna Chakra lists a research published in Biological Psychology by G. A Tooley, which lists these following benefits by managing the release of metatonin which is

* a potent anti-oxidant (which protects against free radical damage)
* free radical scavenger ( free radical cause disease and aging, so melatonin fights them)
* reduces cellular damage of living
* it is anti-cancer
* Immunoaugmenting (boosts immunity)
* anti-stress (stress can kill brain cells conclusively, and is a known cause for most diseases, and hastens aging for sure)